Christmas 2020 Moons, UPDATED

ALL are created as original works of art, from my own naturally dyed fabrics and threads, and then hand embroidered and beaded, as OOAK pieces. This year, many of the small pieces include a small easel for display, as they don’t do well on a wall, due to their delicacy. Dyes used include indigo, lac, madder, cochineal, quebracho rojo, marigolds, onion, eucalyptus, cutch, all done with historically accurate long lasting processes. Listings will commence Sunday, November 22nd.

If you see something you like, but it is sold out, i can approximate–remember, i said One of a Kind, but i do “series” also, so similar works can be produced. Please email me through the Contact page either on this blog or on the shop site.


OH MY GAWDZ, my Indigo suffruticosa is getting flowers!!!!! It’s been under a professional level grow light since Sept 30th, has doubled its size and is looking properly woody shrubs and now there are flower spikes in the leaf axils!!!! I was going to harvest at the end of October, but I want to see now if the flowers go to seed. Hoofies crossed!

growing indigo in a northern clime, part one

Specifically, this type of indigo is Indigofera suffruticosa, a more tropical type than what most grow. Please bear this in mind for my “review” of growing it. Results may vary with other varieties like Indigofera tinctoria. (I have grown Persicaria tinctoria before, but that’s another post, and a variety/species to try again next year.) I was asked by Deb McClintock to share this as advice and experience in a climate than is very different from Texas (where my seeds came from her plants) and other warm/hot/temperate states, provinces and countries, compiling several previous posts and the final results.

I of course started my seeds indoors, May 16th, and placed under a grow light, a necessity in Alberta’s climate. Even the seeds released some blue after soaking overnight! We have a shorter growing season, colder nights (down to 5C –even in the summer—due to our altitude), temperatures rarely going above 30C (86F) and while we get lots of sunshine, my yard is not optimum for catching it! They were sown in a regular potting mix, augmented with a bit of sheep poo fertilizer. I watered them by soaking once a week as they didn’t seem to need much –in fact i’ve never had them wilt even when i forgot to water! Kept under lights until the end of May and then planted in a small pot, they didn’t grow much at all, though they did survive 3 hailstorms! I chose to pot them also because i have a very tiny yard, and the best way to get enough sun on these babies was to put them in something moveable, which was done up to 3 times daily.

By Aug 13th, there wasn’t much growth or improvement, so i transplanted then to a larger pot placing them inside the radius of a large peony cage as well, again with a good layer of sheep poo, a composted manure that usually helps enough that i swear i can see things grow 3inches to a foot a day depending on the plant …..not so much this time…… and wrapped the cage in plastic to trap heat, and which also protects them from hail, a too common occurrence in Alberta summers. I had noticed that any time the night temperature dropped to or below 15C, the leaves would fold down, like a mimosa pudica (the ol’ kids favourite “sensitive” plant). Incidentally, a larger pot does not guarantee growth–i just figured if they DID suddenly go crazy, i wouldn’t have to shock them by transplanting after the fact. Each week, i gave them a weak feeding of Alaska Fish Fertilizer, as i don’t know how deep the roots go, or if they are even down to the layer of sheep poo amendment.

Wrapping them did seem to help. The photo below was taken Sept 9th. I covered the top as well with plastic, creating a small greenhouse. We did have ONE night of frost warning Sept 8th, but i don’t think it actually went below 2C, so the plastic helped, though i also snuggled it up to the tomatoes and threw a heavy flannellette sheet over the whole area. The plants at that point were at a  barely 10″ height.

In the week before i brought them in, Sept 22nd to 29th, our temps started showing autumn, ranging from 14C to 23C during the day and 4C to 8C during the night–this was also the period, it showed an impressive change, filling out and getting woodier stems! At this point, they are still only 12″ high, a far cry from Deb’s 6-8′ beauties!   I figure it might have improved greatly as a last ditch rally: “NO NO NO, i don’t wanna die because winter is coming! Imma making leaves, lookit me, maybe i’ll flower! Don’t let me die!” 🙂



Incidentally, though we had something in the yard that chomped all my honeyberry leaves down to nubbins, and then attacked my rose, nothing seemed interested in these babies. Perhaps luck, perhaps no pests here of the type that would be interested. No yellowing due to soil or water factors, no sun burning, so viruses of any type. Hoofies crossed that no spider mite will occur now that the pot is indoors.

I didn’t want to tempt the Fates though, so brought it in on the 29th–and FREAKED the morning of the 30th as it had folded down so much i thought it was dying!!!!!!!!! I set it up the evening of Sept 30th under “professional” grow lights, near a heat source, and it recovered, so i’m hoping it was just from being near a partially opened window for that night. (By “professional”, i mean Grow Lights, the kind used in the industry–greenhouses, plant nurseries, cannabis set-ups–not the cheap dicky ones sold by Wallymart or the like. If i’m going to invest in something that takes time and some technology, i invest in as top of the line i can afford, or don’t bother.)

Here’s the grow light set-up, nothing fancy: a saucer on a stool, a heat vent in the floor behind–though i put a small cardboard diverter on that so it doesn’t blow directly on the pot—-NOT LETTING CONDITIONS FOR SPIDER MITE HAPPEN!!!!!!!!. and the grow light hanging from ceiling about 2.5 feet above. The light can be adjusted up as/if the plant gets taller. (HOPE HOPE HOPE.) I intend to baby it for at least a month, thinking that longer than that is not going to do much for growth or volume for use.


Had to put a dark bag on the outside though to save our eyes, as this is in the living room! The light goes on at 6am and off at 7am, hoping the timing is okay for hours. (It’s not like there’s a manual for this sort of thing, for any plant!

Part two will be written in probably a month as i see what happens in its new crib :), and then hopefully, enough leaves gathered for at least a teenyschmeenyweensy indigo extraction experiment.

EDIT OCT 3/20—-Talk about freaking my beak! Within 5 minutes of turning these lights off at night, the leaves fold down COMPLETELY. I would assume this is a defense mechanism of sorts to conserve both heat and water expiration, so light *and* temperature affects this. Fortunately, they come back to full mast in the morning, on their own, as soon as light starts to creep in from the patio window, or the light is turned back on.

nope. and yes (growing indigo in Alberta).

Sometimes the “plan” gets forced. Usually doesn’t work.

Revamping idea for “Collige virgo rosas”: same velvets, different background. Don’t like this, or rather, don’t like them together.

Off to the dyepots today/this week. I have in mind some softer fabrics, softer colours AND dramatic colours on softer fabrics.

My Indigo suffruticosa has climbed now to a foot high! (Tongue in cheek. Deb’s got to 6 feet plus, have been harvested and processed already. Better to see the whole thing on her IG.) It got completely covered under 2 layers of heavy plastic when we had our first frost 2 nights ago, survived with no damage, nestled up to the tomatoes, and i will keep babying it as long as i can. Maybe bring in and put under proper growlights if i grab in time before a sneaky frost happens.

Considering how pathetic it looked a few days less than a month ago, and how late it is in the season, i can see some hope for next year! Above, Sept 9, below Aug 12.

Next year, i will definitely “poly tunnel” it from the start. It obviously *can* grow here WITH THOUGHTFUL INFORMED CARE, probably will get no bigger than a few feet, and likely won’t flower (much) but a few feet’s worth is still enough to harvest and use! (Just in case you haven’t see my other Ind suf posts, i am in Calgary Alberta, a tough grow zone, with shorter seasons, much cooler night temps in the summer, and frequent hail.)

it (all) is what it is

Marigolds, indigo. I’m not that fond of yellow usually, except as smeeny accents, but if ya make ’em, ya should use ’em.


I slapped some paint on a couple of pages of my sketchbook, and there are tiny areas that got my juices going a little bit. No ” damn the torpedos, full speed ahead”, but small can be a reboot of sorts.


Finished, for a friend:

Thank goodness for small mercies, as i have the attention span of a gnat right now. Just sticking with small steps.

And also a teeny at 2.5″ square!

In the shop too 🙂



Indigo in August

Oh my, this particular species (Indigofera Suffruticosa) does NOT like Calgary’s cooler nights! I noticed every time the temperature dips below 15C, it folds its leaves down, almost looking like the old “sensitive plant” mimosa pudica! We haven’t had many “heat waves” this summer either, a phenomenon in Alberta that is called hot when the temp goes to 28-30C (82.4-86F) for 2 days in a row 🙂

OOO, it’s grown a magnificent 3″ since i transplanted the beginning of August. Much sarcastic joy.

But at the rate it’s grown since it was sown in the middle of May, i don’t hold out much hope for a crop beyond a few handfuls. I’ve tried moving it to a pot with richer soil than it had been started in, and have greenhoused it with a plastic bag suspended over a peony cage, with nothing to lose at this point. We’ll see how it does by the end of August. That’s when temps start dropping even more at night, sometimes down to 6C (42.8F). Not knowing either how “mature” a plant needs to be before harvesting also leaves me thinking there will be little indigotin in whatever i do manage to strip off. Deb’s is past the stage of growing, and is now processing hers and using it…..

I doubt i’ll get flowers, and if i do, i doubt even more that they’ll mature enough for me to collect seed for next year. I’ll chance planting next spring the seeds i have leftover from Deb in Texas this year, but since indigo is notorious for needing fresh seed for each year, who knows what the germination rate, if any, will be. I may try a different indigo type next year, as my first grow attempt in 2014, was Polygonum/Persicaria tinctorium which grew to a very leafy 3 foot height before it was destroyed by hail, another Alberta garden fact.

I have also realized that the way our townhouse is situated that it’s unlikely i will ever have a stupendous garden here, even as tiny and easily manageable labour wise as it is. Late May and June’s sunlight was magnificent, but of course as the angle of the earth turns through the seasons, much less full sunlight hits the backyard…… I REALLY miss the daylong full on Southern exposure the Old House had!!!!!!!!!!!!!

madder returns, and baby blue hopes

So………………..this is the culmination of 3 and a half years of growing madder. There were 4 winters in that time span, and the first three i had the good fortune of a large garden, where the huge pot could be heeled in (buried and well covered in other words) for our harsh winters. Not so with the recent move and downsizing though: i kept the pot against our sunny house wall by the heat escape vents, wrapped and covered it well, but no growth at all when spring started. Time to “harvest” roots, regardless, as madder is good to dig up in at least it’s third year (5 is optimum apparently).

I dumped the pot, and pawed through it, working as fast as possible because there was a new ant home in the bottom (i HATE ants: they creep me out, have done since i saw Salvador Dali’s “Un Chien Andalou” when i was 16…..) and was very disappointed. Not only did the roots never get below the depth of half the pot, but they were SMALL, stringy and unfortunately, had started to rot. POOP.

I ended up with 65 grams of “fresh” root, which as i understand means they would dry down to about one sixth of that, not quite 11 GRAMS…… I can see a red tint to them, but am not hopeful for good depth. I will use as soon as i can because they don’t *have* to be dry to use, though it’s suggested that letting them “age” develops more of the alazarin. (Although as i hit “publish” on this post, i note they have been drying now for 32 days, admittedly a far cry from drying for a year 🙂 ) I won’t be trying to grow it again as our new garden space is too tiny to heel anything in, and seriously, the “return” on all the effort was not worth the effort… If i ever win the lottery, and have my big space in the country and a proper greenhouse, well, then we’ll revisit that.

Most of the Indigo suffruticosa seeds i planted did pop up. I lost a couple to drying out, because of the winds we’ve had lately, and due to the fact that Calgary is very dry at the best of times. I’m not assuming these will get as big as they grow in Texas at Deb’s though (SHE”S HARVESTING ALREADY!), because we have a shorter growing season, much cooler nights (due to our altitude) and so far this season not a lot of heat….. They did manage to get through 3 hail storms unscathed, probably because they are so tiny! I’m going to cloche them for awhile, trying to keep some heat in, and hopefully they will get big enough that i can get something. I still have a very tiny harvest from my first indigo Persicaria tinctoria attempts at the old house–a handful stored dry since 2015! (Edit: Even cloching these babies didn’t do much though they did double in size in a week. Still pretty teeny! And i don’t know if a bug/virus got them, or it’s the cold weather, but they are all spotted.)

I’ve decided in future, i won’t be sharing much about the actual process of natural dyeing, just the results. I get a fair number of hits on my “how to/how i did it” posts, but since 99.9% of readers don’t acknowledge even with a simple “thank you”, it seems rather pointless. (I’m sure it also bores the hell out of my readers that don’t care about that part of the process.) I seriously think schools have done a poor job teaching anyone HOW to research correctly, but i ain’t getting into that. All i can say is “just because it’s on the internet, or “popular”, doesn’t make it true”.


This bodes well. I bought Indigo suffruticosa seeds from the vaunted Deb McClintock in Texas, and soaking the seeds yielded what is usually the beginning colour of an actual indigo vat!


Of course, i don’t know if this is actually “normal”, and i don’t know how many will germinate or what success i will actually have at the end of the season, but WHOO HOO anyways 🙂

In Texas, Deb gets these to SEVEN feet tall, where they are also more of a perennial. Mine will certainly not reach that height, and our growing season is shorter, with cooler nights, but i’ma gonna baby these babies as much as i can. Whatever i can harvest is a bonus. I may have to store dried until next year when i have enough, but that’s worth the wait as well. Natural dyeing can be a long slow process, but that’s what it IS all about. I did grow indigo one year in a pot at the old house, but hail and an early frost got it when it was barely 3 feet tall and rather sparse. I still have the dried leaves though!

Hoofies crossed!

EDIT May 20—-15 of the 24 planted have sprouted–WHOOOOOOOOHOO!!!

embroiderer overboard!

I had grand plans for this moon as being part of the “deadline piece” but it just *doesn’t* fit with the whole! It’s too heavy and powerful juxtaposed with the more delicate stitching on the main piece. I’ve set it aside temporarily, and it will become something else when the one i’m working on is done!

My stitchin’ fingers hurt like hell too, a lot of manipulation work here, and pulling loaded needles through the mass was cursey to say the least 🙂

Nope. At least i revived some old skills and ideas though!

no manual included

Trees and moons and Spring are on m y mind–though *that* is far away right now, with -21C to -25C projected for this coming weekend. (My son has been in Uganda since the beginning of November–is he gonna get a shock, trying to climatize again to Alberta weather, after almost 2.5 months of African heat!) I’ve picked an indigo overdyed osage cotton, 2 different velvets for another blue moon, a previously screensprinted and then stencilled indigo cotton, and a hunk of the most wonderful chartreuse velvet i only hope i can replicate again! That one is the right side and you may notice a funny bit of photo editing to show the correct colour, a square of green set in the yellow–it ain’t yellow, but the studio is so wrong for photographing colour, and i was too pooped to drag everything upstairs and anyways, it’s a grey snowy day, so bear with me 🙂

Here’s the indigo over osage:

Above is the piece of cotton i will use as the background (has bluer tones), below is a larger piece (greener tones) that i am drooling on and fondling:

I had revved up my indigo vat again on the weekend past. (Actually i had to start from scratch as the originals had to be dumped for the move…..too little to save, and too much chance of spillage or oxygen overload as it sloshed on a truck!) First results were not encouraging, but after asking in an indigo group what the problem might be, have concluded it might have been the tannin premordant, *and* the cutch, which is *also* a tannin. See the grey around the darker marks of indigo? (All photos in my posts are clickable for larger viewing.) I like the effect, but if it doesn’t “stick” well, it’s not a good practice if i wish to flog my goods later! (It also appears to have stripped the madder…)

Apparently tannin repels the indigo, something a lot have discovered with indigo and ecoprinting. Of course, checking my Boutrup/Ellis book, i should know better anyways and do the indigo first, THEN the mordanting, then the overdyeing. The two osage/indigo pieces mentioned above were done after this debacle, and though of course they were premordanted with tannin and alum, they don’t have as much tannin as the tannin/cutch piece, so the indigo struck properly!

I’ve been meaning to add less expensive, ready to use items to my inventory as well. Here’s the first test piece, a cotton neckscarf, clamp shibori-ed, and modelled by the ever silent Madame LaToussa.

I do like that, if i say so myself! The only problem is that the scarves were obviously hemmed with a polyester thread, but it’s not obtrusive enough to bother me (or probably anyone else) greatly. Barely noticeable.

I also have today clamped a shibori indigo dyed very hairy very scarey very contrary chenille scarf, ready to overdye, and as i mentioned in a previous post, i will do a post about that. I’m pretty sure it’s a failure, a funny one, and probably still wearable, but definitely a failure. You can judge for yourself at the time of showing 🙂

I’d have a nap now, but Greyman will be home in several minutes.

I will have a nap now.